Friday, July 24

Afghan Tragedy 2: More than met the eye in Wednesday's terror bombing

Follow war reports long enough and develop a sixth sense about the incidents of war. I knew there was something hinky about the bombing July 22 in Faryab's Almar District in N. Afghanistan, even though it seemed on the surface to be a routine Taliban targeting of shoppers and/or security forces guarding a busy market. The AP, Reuters, LA Times and other reports on the incident didn't give any indication that there was something unusual.

It wasn't until I read down to the very end of a New York Times report, filed July 22 by Mujib Mashal and Ahmad Shakib with additional reporting by Jawad Sukhanyar, Suicide Bombing at Afghan Market Kills Dozens, that I learned what was nonroutine about the attack.  Here I'll include some introductory passages to set the stage: 
Unlike in previous years, when the Taliban’s annual offensives largely focused on the south and east of the country, the insurgency has mounted daring attacks in the north this year.
Caught off guard as Taliban fighters neared major cities, the Afghan government turned to arming militias to support its security forces, undermining a process of disarmament that has cost hundreds of millions of dollars over the past decade. In recent weeks, major strongmen in the area have vowed to continue the rearmament if the government forces fail to push back the Taliban threat.
In Faryab, the Taliban are active in “almost all the districts,” Mr. Fayeq said. They control many strategic areas on the way to neighboring provinces, he added.
“The overall security situation in Faryab is petrifying, and the residents are very tense about their fate,” he said.
The province’s deteriorating situation has alarmed the government so much that the country’s vice president, Abdul Rashid Dostum, has traveled to the area to oversee the military operations. On Tuesday night, Mr. Dostum gathered the leadership of the security forces in his pink palace in Jowzjan, his home province, which borders Faryab.
“For at least 39 years, I wore the military uniform, and I don’t remember returning from a single battle, small or big, without implementing our plan and taking back the geography — even if it took one month, two months, three months, or 100, 200 or even 1,000 casualties in a day,” Mr. Dostum told the troops.
Late in the night, Mr. Dostum’s security guards came under enemy fire on the outskirts of the provincial capital, Sheberghan. In the crossfire, one insurgent was killed and one was captured, according to the vice president’s spokesman, Sultan Faizy.
“The vice president was at his compound while the attack happened,” Mr. Faizy said.
Mr. Dostum’s next plans are to lead a high-ranking delegation to Faryab. Mr. Fayeq said that intelligence briefings suggested the attack on Wednesday had been meant for that delegation, but that the security forces learned about the plan and started a search for anyone who might be involved.
“The purpose of the suicide bomber was to target the high-ranking government officials,” Mr. Fayeq said. “The incident, unfortunately, caused grave casualties to civilians.”
What to make of this news?  I'm not in the mood to ask Charlotte's bookie what he thinks so I'll take a flying leap on my own. The Taliban have always targeted whatever Afghan officials they could, but in light of the details about the July 22 attack it would seem their vaunted 'peace' talks are for show.  I'd say they're not sincere and neither is the government pulling the Afghan Taliban's strings, that being Pakistan's, despite Rawalpindi's protests that they have very little control over the Taliban these days.    
I'll mention one passage in The Los Angeles Times report on the July 22 incident although I don't know whether this bombing was aimed at an official and/or participant(s) in the planned conference:
On July 15, an explosion in front of a bank in Maimana, the provincial capital [of Faryab], injured at least 20 people.

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